Gun control is an important concern in America, extensively discussed, but still undecided. People who are in favor of gun control often describe United States as “Wild West", or as a land of daily duels between cowboys. This group of people suggests that America must get on board with the rest of the democratic industrialized countries of world. On the other hand, different pro-gun lobbyists strongly complaint the strict gun control of nations like Britain and Japan. They are of the opinion that most of the arms come from the “western" films and the reality is actually much more peaceful. According to them, laws of Gun control limit the ownership or purchase of such guns which are obtained mainly for sporting or defensive aims (Welford, 2011). This paper will shed light on different aspects of gun control debate and then try to formulate a succinct conclusion.
History of Gun Control
Terms of the Second Amendment (ratified in 1791), clearly show that it was not to allow a sport or hobby, but a popular militia, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, it cannot be deprived of the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. This constitutional right is nothunting or sport shooting, the revolutionary American colonies wanted all the people to be armed, and they led weapons war - the modern equivalent would be something like the AK-47; it was able to killBritish soldiers and ward off the threat in any form whatsoever, of a standing army, the revolutionariesrightly regarded as a scourge against freedom and the basis of tyranny (Hardy, 2006). In fact, the American Revolution was triggered by attempts of the British army, and in particular of General ThomasGage, forcing the colonists to surrender their weapons.
The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees to every American citizen the right to bear arms. It is part of the ten amendments passed December 15, 1791, commonly called "Bill of Rights" (Bill of Rights). The codification of the right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights was influenced by the fear that the federal government would disarm the people in order to impose rule through a standing army, since history showed how tyrants eliminated resistance by removing arms to the people and making it illegal to keep to suppress opponents policies (Hardy, 2006).
The Federal government had no legal basis for a constitutional ban on alcohol, drugs or weapons. To establish the prohibition of alcohol, it had to go through an amendment to the Constitution. For cannabis, in 1937 the government introduced a law requiring obtaining a stamp price of one dollar for anyone who trade in hemp (Marihuana Tax Act). Non-payment of this tax was then punishable by five years in prison. Except for the production of industrial hemp during the Second World War, the patches were then simply given more, and the cultivation of hemp and became punishable by five years in prison.
For weapons, the same method was used. While the Second Amendment explicitly prohibits restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms, in 1934, Congress introduced the "National Firearms Act", which did not prohibit anything, but imposes a tax of $200 on the purchase and the transfer of certain weapons and weapon accessories, as long as these weapons cross the borders of states. The federal government had no legal authority to prohibit weapons, but only that of taxing trade between the different States of the United States. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), responsible for enforcing the law, was also originally part of the Treasury Department. It was therefore officially and legally a measure to generate revenue. In fact, $ 200 was a considerable sum for weapons worth a few dollars, and the tax was therefore deliberately prohibitive. But unlike the case of cannabis, those who had the means and fulfilled tax could get authorization without too many problems. When the cost became affordable thanks to inflation indeed, many were able to do (Cook & Jens, 2010).
Most firearms used in homicides by gangs and youth are illegal. These are weapons smuggling U.S. weapons stolen or an owner legitimate Canadian. The illegal acquisition of firearms United States has some main sources which include: 1) U.S. authorized dealers, 2) nominees (who provide legally a firearm to a person unable to buy legal weapons), 3) the false identity: false IDs used by someone unable to purchase weapons legally and 4) U.S. secondary markets exhibitions such as firearms, the markets fleas and private sales. Firearms used to commit residence gang crimes are most often stolen from legitimate owners. Since 1974, more than 85,000 firearms were stolen, of which more than 50% of firearms restricted (e.g. handguns) . Therefore, many stolen firearms remain in the hands of criminals and are used in homicides gangs. It is essential to require a safe storage and register firearms to be able to trace those stolen (Hung, 2006).
The right to possess and carry a firearm is established by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, however, the legislative branch of each state, and to some extent local governments (counties, independent cities) may make laws and ordinances governing the possession and carrying of firearms, concealed or not. The first state of the United States to adopt a control law was New York in 1911. Sullivan introduced historic legislation purchase authorizations and permits detention and port for handguns. Its effectiveness has been limited by traffic from other states. Control advocates have therefore turned to the federal government, but the U.S. Constitution leaves little to the latter; laws passed in 1934, 1938, 1968 and 1994 based on its ability to regulate interstate commerce and its taxation power (hardy, 2006).
In 1993, the Brady bill was passed to limit the possession of firearms by criminals and former imposes a control when buying a new gun through the National System investigation on the existence of instant criminal records (National Instant Criminal Background Check Systems, or NICS) operated by the FBI. Law to prevent the use of firearms by children (Children's Gun Violence Prevention Act) has already been proposed several times to the Congress. The Bureau of Alcohol, tobbaco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the federal agency responsible for dealing with infringements on gun control.A violation of this law consists simply in the non-payment of a tax of $200. This offense is punishable yet ten years in prison, forfeiture of all weapons of the accused and the ban on possessing weapons in the future.
Nevertheless, control of firearms encounter many resistances in the United States: the lobby of the National Rifle Association (NRA) argues in favor of the right to custody. The right to bear arms is a constitutional right spelled out in the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. In 2005, when the homicide rate was 5.7 per 100 000 inhabitants, firearms were used in 9% of violent crimes and 26% of robberies in the United States. In most cases, they are illegally held weapons (Welford, 2011).
U.S. regulations on firearms are extremely controversial. Most laws on arms fire are established at the state, creating a large divergence from one state to another and making it difficult to apply regulations. Many groups in favor of Firearms (including the National Rifle Association) are constant pressure on the government of the United States, arguing that the possession of firearms is a constitutional right and therefore no restrictions should be applicable. Groups in favor of the control of firearms, as Brady Campaign, exercise pressure on the government to increase control firearms. Mayors Against Illegal coalition Guns which includes more than 270 mayors, is another initiative American aims to reduce the number of firearm deaths. The coalition members share a common goal: Remove illegal weapons from streets.
Different states have more or less restrictive gun laws; from the ban (Washington DC) to purchase and carry weapons completely free (Alaska, Vermont). In addition, there are federal laws, which should in theory be applied in certain special cases (interstate commerce), but became fully fledged prohibitionist laws.
Yet there is one important exception to the legal possession of a weapon: the "gun free zones", mainly because of a federal law (by an Act of Parliament be noted that it applies again, in theory, as weapons have passed through several states), restricting the carrying of weapons within 300 meters (1000 feet) of the property of all public and private schools. In addition, there are gun free zones for buildings federal officials and other state laws, or local regulations that schools or university campuses "gun free zones" even for holders of a license carrying a weapon (Grossman, Reay & Baker, 1999).
The Virginia Tech massacre, for example, ran a gun free zone, while other massacres have been stopped or prevented by students holding arms legally (and could be earlier if they were allowed to have their weapon on them rather than in their cars). So many students have realized that the problem is the gun free zones, not too much access to weapons as some claim. Remember that these examples satisfy a particular American context but they illustrate that it is the illegal detention of weapons that are at the origin of these dramas.
To apply the "tax measure" (and other measures equally absurd that followed), the "tax inspectors" of ATF went very far. Ruby Ridge: the woman and the 13 year old son of Randy Weaver were killed. Randy Weawer was suspected of having sold two rifles (without paying the $200 fee!) by ATF agents whose guns were too short 1/4 inch. He always said that he had sold guns with the legal length that agents have subsequently shortened to have an excuse to stop (which seems credible, why risk 10 years in prison for a shorter barrel than a quarter of an inch?). The Waco massacre killed 70 people including women and children, on the basis of a suspicion that people could possibly transform semi-auto rifles in full-auto, which is illegal (although such weapons could be acquired if they had been legally recorded before 1986) (Welford, 2011).
In District of Columbia v. Heller (26 June 2008), the Supreme Court ordered that the self is a central element of law. Before deciding Heller, there was disagreement on whether to protect the individual right or a collective right, because the amendment begins with a preliminary clause which refers to a "well regulated militia”. Previously, the Supreme Court did not directly cite the amendment, or had only made through limited or ambiguous terms (Welford, 2011).
District of Columbia, is not a state and it was the only government concerned by Heller case, uncertainty remained about whether the Second Amendment applies to states and local governments by incorporation through the XIV amendment. This uncertainty has been lifted off in McDonald v. Chicago in 2010, in which the Supreme Court struck down provisions of a law of the City of Chicago prohibiting the possession of handguns and other regulations concerning guns and other hunting weapons.
U.S. comparison with other Countries
Approximately 200 000 deaths occurred due to firearms including suicides, homicides and unintentional injuries occur in the world outside of contexts war. In 1997, the Center for Disease Control of the United States indicated that children under 15 years were 9 times more likely to die from unintentional gunshot wounds , 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a firearm and 16 times more likely to be homicide victims committed with a firearm (Cukier, 2005) .Statistics from industrialized countries indicate that death rates from firearms are related positively to the rate of firearm possession. The reason for this correlation lies in the following risk factors: a gun in the home increases the 1) risk of suicide, family homicide and 2) accidents, particularly among children and adolescents. Studies have shown that deaths by firearms increased - other factors remaining constant - in proportion to the rate of possession of firearms. One study noted a strong correlation (92%) between the presence of firearms in the homes and death rates from firearms, in all industrialized countries. Other studies have shown that the risk of a family member is killed are 2.7 times higher in a home where firearms are stored than the home without weapon (Ozanne-Smith et al., 2004).